in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway

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978-1-877448-59-1A few years ago I wrote a chapter of Jazz Aotearoa, a book about New Zealand jazz music history, discussing the free improvisation and avant-garde jazz scene in Wellington at the turn of the millennium.

in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway is a collection of improvised Simon O'Rorkeinstrumental music with some of the musicians in that scene, from the point of view of my own attempts as an untrained outsider to fit in with these advanced jazz players – including Jeff Henderson, Blair Latham, Paul Winstanley, Dan Beban, Julie Bevan and more.

It was partly recorded in 1999 and partly in 2014, to show an evolution.  An easy way to tell them apart is that Simon O’Rorke played percussion on all the 1999 tracks and synthesiser on all the 2014 ones.


Simon O’Rorke – percussion, synthesisers

Paul Winstanley – synth bass
Blair Latham – alto sax, bass clarinet
Jeff Henderson – clarinet
Bridget Kelly – tenor sax
Dan Beban – electric guitar
Julie Bevan – acoustic guitar
Michael Hall – alto sax
Chris Prosser – violin
Dave Edwards – electric and acoustic guitars, bass, electronics, tenor sax

Free improvisation is a genre of music with a self-explanatory name.  Nothing is planned in advance, and the performers create the music on the spot by responding to what the others are doing in that moment.

978-1-877448-59-1Its historical roots are in the free jazz of the 1960s, but it’s since expanded to include influences from outside the jazz tradition entirely (just as well since I don’t have proper jazz chops).  Often there may no regular beat and no key signatures or conventional melody – hence “the non-idiomatic idiom”.

This kind of free improvisation differs from that of The Winter, which is a regular trio with its own particular flavour, and the more structured improvisation (and regular beat) of The Electricka Zoo and Ascension Band.

Further listening:

‘The Slab Septet’ tracks are an expanded lineup of Simon O’Rorke’s regular improvising trio from the late 90s / early 2000s, who can be heard here:

while the more recent Confluence tracks featuring Chris Prosser, Julie Bevan and Michael Hall can be heard here:

Confluence – Julie Bevan, Michael Hall, Simon O’Rorke, Chris Prosser

Simon O’Rorke also appears on the fiffdimension albums The Marion Flow and Mantis Shaped and Worrying

and many more at

Paul Winstanley produced and performs on The Marion Flow and dAdApApa: Waiting for the Drummer

You can hear some of his solo bass synth playing here and much more at Eden Gully.

Blair Latham performs with, among others, La Idea Electrica and Arc Trio

Jeff Henderson is a prolific & influential improvisor and multi-instrumentalist, and is manager of the Audio Foundation in Auckland

Dan Beban is guitarist for Orchestra of Spheres, the Rubbernecks and many more, and manages the Pyramid Club in Wellington.

He also plays with Simon O’Rorke in The Slab and Secretaries on Standby (along with Atsushi Iseki from the Ascension Band)

I’ve also dabbled with free improvisation at other times, including playing at Vitamin S events in Auckland

and with various one-off spontaneous groups in Wellington and elsewhere

At other times I’ve used free improvisations as raw material, which has been edited and multitracked into retrospective compositions – not so much cheating as a whole other topic…


13 thoughts on “in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    2014 roundup | fiffdimension said:
    30/12/2014 at 11:17 pm

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    Scratched Surface | fiffdimension said:
    19/06/2015 at 10:28 am

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    The Winter 2015 | fiffdimension said:
    25/07/2015 at 7:26 am

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    The Woods | fiffdimension said:
    15/09/2015 at 6:14 am

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway […]

    Gleefully Unknown: 1997-2005 « fiffdimension said:
    08/02/2018 at 10:24 am

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway (1999/2014) […]

    Fame & Oblivion: 2005-2012 « fiffdimension said:
    26/02/2018 at 4:20 pm

    […] Thornicroft (electric guitar), Cylvi M (vocal, field recordings, percussion, shakuhachi), Jeff Henderson (drums), Noel Meek (vocal), Clever Hansel […]

    Other Islands: 2012-2018 « fiffdimension said:
    29/04/2018 at 9:57 pm

    […] in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway (1999/2014) […]

    […] Marion Flow, Mantis Shaped and Worrying, and Loose Autumn Moans. These combined songwriting with an interest in free jazz and poetic modernism that further sunk my commercial […]

    Julie Bevan – Kaleidoscope « fiffdimension said:
    12/05/2019 at 9:18 pm

    […] Among her other collaborations, Julie also appears on the Confluence Quintet tracks of Other Islands: 2012-2018 and in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway. […]

    11 through the viewer 7 « fiffdimension said:
    14/07/2019 at 10:14 am

    […] Acoustic improv has cropped up throughout my work eg in in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway (1999) […]

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